I learned Portuguese from Portugal. Now doing the Duolingo Portuguese course it is heavily influenced by Brazil.

I am getting destroyed by the lessons that deal with clothing. I always get the 'to dress / to wear' verb wrong.

How can I know when it is appropriate to use vestir vs calcar? vs usar?


  • Sorry Joshua, that's a common difficulty. They're 190 million, we are 10 million... of course the majority of resources are in pt-BR and not pt-PT.
    – ANeves
    Jun 2 at 11:25
  • For levels B1-B2 of pt-PT, I personally recommend the work book "As Cidades do Mar" by Porto Editora: portoeditora.pt/ensino-portugues-no-estrangeiro/projetos/…
    – ANeves
    Jun 2 at 11:26
  • Frankly, I think these uses are probably the same on both sides of the Atlantic., except maybe botar. They might use por, instead: por um vestido, por os sapatos. etc.
    – Lambie
    Jun 2 at 20:04
  • Whoever is trolling through my answers and dving me should take a hard look at themselves.
    – Lambie
    Sep 26 at 14:42

I am Brazilian from São Paulo. I say it because I have the impression that this may change from place to place, even only inside Brazil.

Basically, the word vestir means to dress; ex.: eu vou vestir um vestido lindíssimo! = I'll dress a very beautiful dress. As in English, one can dress a baby: Vesti o bebê pro inverno = I dressed the baby for the winter. The verb vestir can also be pronominal if with no object: Ele se vestiram bem = They dressed (up) well. I believe one could say eles vestiram bem, but it sounds weird, at least for me, unless there's an object omitted. The verb has other meanings, but that's the basics and the other meanings are similar or figurative. Two notes: the verb is irregular in the present of the first person singular indicative: visto instead of vesto; also in the present of the subjunctive: vista, vistas, vistamos, vistais and vistam. The second note is that one doesn't veste a shoe or a sock.

The word calçar means to put on. According to the dictionary, one can calçar trousers or gloves, but I have only seen it being used for things put on one's foot/feet, like a shoe or a boot and maybe socks. As with vestir, one can calçar someone; ex.: só preciso calçar o meu filho e já vamos = I just need to put the shoes on my son, and then we go. Idem, it can be pronominal: Você se calçou bem = You put on (some) good shoes (non-literal translation). Interesting that you can say “calça o cone” or “calça o slime”.

The word usar means to use; for clothes, one could translate it to have on; ex.: eu vou usar aquela camisa que cê me deu na festa amanhã = I'll use that shirt you gave me in the party tomorrow, Eu 'to' usando uma camisa da minha avó = I have on a shirt of my grandmother.

To summarize: vestir is irregualar and means to dress, calçar means to put a thing on your foot, and usar means to have on or to use.

  • 1
    That's exactly how I use these words too.
    – stafusa
    May 28 at 21:14
  • 1
    In Portugal, "calçar" is also for gloves. "Calçar umas luvas" is idiomatic. We may also use "pôr umas luvas", "vestir umas luvas", and other similar constructs; but gloves are used with verb "calçar".
    – ANeves
    Jun 2 at 11:29
  • 1
    (Shouldn't "calçar" be for "calças" (pants)?!?!???? Never try to make sense about languages, you'll go insane!)
    – ANeves
    Jun 2 at 11:30
  • I have to laugh (nicely): calçar means to put a thing on your foot. Isn't that: botar uma coisa no pé? They were well dressed. ou seja: Eles estavam bem vestidos.
    – Lambie
    Jun 2 at 19:01
  • Porque que você vai vestir un vestido lindo? Será que vestir un terno lindo não seria melhor? :)
    – Lambie
    Sep 26 at 14:43

This is really easy:

Vestir roupa = wear or put on clothes or dress, [visto x: I wear x.]
Calçar sapatos = wear or put on shoes. [for footwear] These are used when discussing sizes worn: Visto um (tamanho) 36. Calço um (tamanho) 42.
What size do you wear? [shoes] Que tamanho você calça?
What size do you wear [clothes] Que tamanho você veste?

Visto is the simple present: I wear or put on some item of clothing.

Please note: both those can be wear in English, but you should not confuse the ones for shoes and the one for clothes. If you can remember that sidewalk is Calçada, where you walk, that should help you remember: calçar sapatos.

Usar= to wear; shoes, clothes, jewelry, watches, hats, etc.

  • Uso calça comprida no trabalho.
  • I wear long pants at work.
  • Já não uso relogio. [I no longer wear a watch.]

Usar is used for something worn regularly. To be worn.

  • Do you wear a hat everyday? Você usa chapéu todos os dias?

You will have to learn the verbs by heart: vestir, calçar, usar, botar.

The good news: four verbs with an AR ending, and one with an IR ending. You can look up those conjugations and tenses, I am not putting them all up here.

The verb vestir is only irregular in the first person singular, present tense: Eu visto. (That makes the subjunctive be: vista, as subjunctives comes from that tense and person. But that's quite advanced.)

Special note about botar: botar should be used like this: He put on his flips flops when he went to the beach. (Ele botou as havianas quando foi à praia.)

Botar can be used in the sense of PUT ON.

  • Put on your shoes right now. Bota os sapatos agora mesmo.

Vestir and botar both mean to put on. But vestir is more formal and botar is more informal and used in the sense of: PUT ON for a purpose.

  • He dresses very well. Ele se veste muito bem.
  • He puts on a coat when its cold. Ele bota um casaco quando faz frio.

Finally, instead of botar, you can use por for put on, but the verb por is highly irregular.

Eu nunca ponho havaianas em casa. I never put on flip flops at home.

[This is perhaps not the full story, but it is at least half of it].

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